Notre Dame returns to action this week after falling to 2-4 last week thanks in large part to an inexplicable game plan from Brian Kelly. Has the Irish been able to eek out a victory in hurricane conditions they’d be sitting at 3-3 with back to back wins and facing a reeling Stanford team coming off back to back blowout losses. Instead two pre-season top 10 teams whose playoff hopes were obliterated already will both be looking to get their seasons back on track against each other.
While Notre Dame’s disastrous 2-4 start is one of the most shocking turns of events this season, Stanford’s back to back blowout losses is right up there. The Cardinal have lost the last two weeks by a combined score of 82-22 with a 44-6 loss to Washington and then a 42-16 loss to Washington State.
So, which of 2016’s biggest disappointing teams will get the better of the other tonight?
How’d I Do Last Week?
The weather worried me last week but I never thought it would be that bad and never thought they would actually play a game of football in such weather. My original prediction called for a high scoring game before the forecast got progressively worse and worse as game time drew near.
Aside from the weather, ball security and the Notre Dame running game concerned me last week and both were huge issues for the Irish and contributed to the loss. Justin Yoon, to his credit, was listed as a concern after a couple rough outings, but the sophomore nailed a 40 yarder in the worst conditions he may ever kick in. It will be tough to find A more impressive kick.
What Concerns Me This Week
- Stanford finding its offense. Even with Christian McCaffrey out, the Stanford offensive line reeling, and the Cardinal offense stuck in neutral, it still scares me that they could “find” their offense tonight in Notre Dame Stadium against the Irish defense.
- What a loss would mean for Notre Dame. If Notre Dame loses tonight, a bowl game is pretty much gone if not already. Notre Dame can build some positive momentum into the bye week with a win, but a loss and this team likely spirals like 2007. A win and maybe, just maybe we see a 2010 style turnaround.
- Midterms. Notre Dame never plays well after midterms.
What Doesn’t Concern Me This Week
- Deshone Kizer bouncing back. Kizer had an awful game statistically speaking last week but who the heck could have had a good day passing in those conditions? Kizer bounces back big time tonight against the Tree.
- The Stanford offensive line. Stanford’s given up 11 sacks the last two weeks. That’s not a typo. ELEVEN. Washington got to Stanford 8 times and Washington State, a team that had 3 sacks on the season before last week picked up 3 sacks of their own. If Notre Dame can’t rush the passer this week, it’s safe to assume they might not all season.
- The weather. Cloudy skies in South Bend this weekend, but there is just a 5% chance of rain at any time throughout the game. A week after playing in a hurricane the Irish passing attack won’t have to deal with torrential downpours and howling winds.
- Christian McCaffrey. Stanford will be without their star running back for tonight’s game. Even though he wasn’t as effective as he’s been the last two weeks, you know he would have had a game against Notre Dame had he been able to suit up. That offense runs through McCaffrey. If there was ever a time for Notre Dame’s defense to get things turned around it could be tonight.
Players to Watch
- Sam Mustipher – Look for Mustipher to bounce back after his rough week against NC State. Mustipher has been great all season long before having to snap the ball in the shotgun repeatedly in a hurricane. He’ll bounce back.
- Josh Adams – Is Adams suffering a sophomore slump or is he playing at not quite 100%? He looks much more tentative and unable to break tackles compared to a year ago. Adams had the best game of his career against Stanford last year and this year’s Cardinal D is not nearly as good as last year’s. Can he get back on track tonight?
- Equanimeous St. Brown – Expecting the sophomore to pick up right where he left off against Syracuse with another big game for the Irish.
- Nyles Morgan – Even with McCaffrey out Stanford will try to run the ball on the Irish. Why wouldn’t they? Morgan needs to be on top of his game this week. Last week he tried to deliver the knockout punch too many times instead of wrapping up. He can’t do that this weekend.
- Tony Pride Jr – The freshman played extensively against Syracuse and then rode the pine last week. Will he get back on the field?
- Greg Hudson – Keeping him on the list again this week. This is the type of game where attitude can make the difference and he’s been fun to watch on sidelines. He’sbeen able to get his players fired up and the players at least appear to be responding to him.
All week long I planned on picking Stanford to win this game following last week’s debacle, but while last week I had to convince myself into picking Notre Dame, this week I am finding myself have to convince myself to pick Stanford. They just really are not very good this year. Their offensive line is in a shambles, their defense has been under fire the last two weeks, and they will be playing without their star running back. Add it all up and it’s hard to pick against Notre Dame in this one even with all of the problems the Irish have of their own.
Notre Dame has the kind of offense that can put up points on Stanford and the patchwork Irish defense should be able to at least be adequate against a Stanford offense that has struggled to do much of anything the last two weeks. This game could still go either way though as Notre Dame has not done much to instill confidence as it sits at 2-4.
I will probably regret this prediction but I regret most of my predictions this year so what the hell.
Prediction: Notre Dame 36, Stanford 35